14. Augusta-Keating High Country Homestead District

Mile markers 3-11.5, Highway 165

 By the 1880s the best farming land in the lower elevations had been claimed. What was left included the snowy 9,000 high valleys along the upper spine of the Wet Mountains. In 1876, Saul Wixon and his family became the first permanent settlers in what would become the Augusta District. At one time 225 people lived in the Augusta Keating area. Settlers eked out a living growing potatoes, timbering and moonshining. Many ranchers also grazed cattle on government lands sometimes without permission. It could take farmers two days to take their produce the nine miles to the mining town of Rosita. A trip to Pueblo was typically a three- to four-day undertaking. Today, it’s a 50 minute drive.

 Edwin Drake was appointed at the first postmaster of Augusta in 1889. The post office was a room attached to the front of Drake's house. Residents exchanged news and gossip at the post office until 1902. It was reestablished in 1914,but was renamed ”Keating.” This new name honored Dr. John Keating,  a well-known public Pueblo educator and visiting lay minister. Jesse Hardin delivered mail three times a week. He would leave Wetmore on horseback, make one stop at Augusta, then head on to Rye. A mile or so from his home he would fire his revolver three times to alert his wife to have dinner ready. Mail is still delivered only three times a week in this area. The original Drake Homestead, which served as the Augusta and Keating post offices, still stands on Highway 165 several miles south of McKenzie Junction. Several other original 1880s homesteads are visible on both sides of the highway. Can you pick them out?